Cindy Blackstock

This resource is courtesy of CBC Radio’s The Sunday Edition – a lively three-hour program of conversation, documentaries and music. Michael Enright, an accomplished journalist and broadcaster, is the host and tackles a variety of topics.

Indigenous leader Cindy Blackstock – speaking with Michael Enright on the final episode of the Sunday Edition – June 26, 2020
… you can start listening at the 6 minute mark. The interview with Cindy Blackstock is 16 minutes – from the 7 minute mark to the 23 minute mark.
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-57-sunday-edition

A member of the Gitksan First Nation with 25 years of social work experience in child protection and indigenous children’s rights. Dr. Blackstock’s research interests are indigenous theory and the identification & remediation of structural inequalities affecting First Nations children, youth & families.


An author of over 50 publications & a widely sought after public speaker, Dr. Blackstock has collaborated with other Indigenous leaders to assist the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in the development and adoption of a General Comment on the Rights of Indigenous children. Recently, she also worked with Indigenous young people, UNICEF & the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to produce a youth friendly version of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child. Her promotion of culturally based & evidence informed solutions has been recognized by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Frontline Defenders and many others.

6 thoughts on “Cindy Blackstock

  1. In this interview with Cindy Blackstock, many important and relevant issues are presented in regard to Canada’s relationship with First Nations people. Most notably, comments are made on the government of Canada’s efforts, or lack thereof, in attaining a respectful relationship with the First Nations.
    In Cindy Blackstock’s portion of the interview, she makes many strong and notable arguments as to why the Canadian government is failing to own-up to their previous mistakes:
    First, Blackstock begins by saying that “reconciliation means not saying sorry twice”.
    I found this particular statement extremely important because she addresses that the government has failed the First Nations many times in the past, and should recognize these faults first before trying to attain any kind of “agreement” or “apology”.
    In addition, Blackstock comments on the inhumane way in which the government continues to identify and account for First Nations people. Blackstock says that when a baby is born, they are labelled as “status” or “non-status”, and are given an identification number in order that they may be easily tracked by the government. Personally, this fact was alarming and provided clarity on the many other injustices that First Nations people face, such as a lack of funding for their children’s education, as well as limited access to essential resources, such as clean drinking water. The government of Canada continues to ignore the humanity of the First Nations, and for that reason, cannot in any way progress from the past.
    Lastly, Blackstock says that Canada’s Indian Act is more of a “roadblock” as opposed to a “stepping-stone” to Reconciliation. She says that it continues to view and perceive First Nations peoples as liabilities rather than as human beings, and for that reason, has no ability to effectively invoke a change.
    After having listened to the interview, I feel even more responsible for actively seeking government-reform with regards to their relationship with the First Nations, and I believe that Blackstock serves as an inspiration for others to become more involved in such issues.

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    1. “After having listened to the interview, I feel even more responsible for actively seeking government-reform with regards to their relationship with the First Nations, and I believe that Blackstock serves as an inspiration for others to become more involved in such issues.” Valuscha, thanks for your thoughtful inisghts based on Blackstock’s words. I took a course at the University of Toronto last year called, Social Justice and the City and the topic of the “Truth and Reconciliation” project came up. The professor also screened a portion of Stephen Harper’s resolve for action and advocacy for Indigenous peoples. However, I remember clearly that day that I spoke about how “talk is cheap.” We see our leaders keep apologizing on paper and in speech… but no action is being taken. It is like repeating something over and over again and people are getting tired. The Truth and Reconciliation resolutions are merely words on a sheet of paper without concrete enactments.

      Words without actions are useless. How often do we mention Indigenous peoples when it comes to funding? As we speak on this topic in this current situation, let it be brought to light that the Indigenous peoples are vulnerable during this pandemic, yet I have not heard of much concern or plan to make testing or medical help available to them.

      I am baffled and concerned about this lack of concern from the government – and I too am guilty of this, for not writing letters or advocating for these people in Canadian society. We need to take concrete action to show that we are truly moving towards a transparency of truth and sincere reconciliation with out Indigenous brothers and sisters.

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    2. Valuscha,

      Great reflection! I like how you pointed out many of the injustices that the First Nations face and I think it’s important to note the cyclical ways in which they are continuously perpetuated. I believe all the disadvantages they face whether through present social inequalities or the historical intergenerational trauma that affects their way of life regardless, all of these factors are intertwined. I think an intersectional approach is important in analyzing this issue because a National Inquiry hearing was launched to investigate this issue and an intersectional approach is fundamental in understanding how this cultural genocide and covert method of social control is targeting the Indigenous community. There have been a disproportionate amount of Canada’s Indigenous people, particularly women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people going missing or being murdered with little to no accountability being held against their oppressors. Idle No More is a social movement that seeks to bring attention to this gory and disturbing lived reality of the Indigenous community. Intersectionality is important here because of its recognition that an individual social actor’s experience and social positioning makes them a target to particular and interconnected systems of oppression, as is the case for these missing or murdered individuals. Keep up the good work!

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  2. “Anger is a signal that something is wrong. You can lose your humanity if you just get sucked into it. Taught by Elder Elmer and e.g. like Martin Luther King really shone that the only way to defeat the darkness is to shine a loving light on it. […] Elder Elmer Courchene said, “It’s loving justice that will defeat colonialism.” You can’t hold a movement on tears and anger it must be built on love.”

    In an interview with the now, Venerable Cardinal Francis Xavier Thuận Văn Nguyễn, who was imprisoned by the Communists for thirteen years, upon closing the interview, the late Cardinal said, “Love conquers everything.” Those words came from the mouth of someone who was unjustly imprisoned and was even exiled from their homeland. But Cardinal Thuận is right, and his words echo in Cindy Blackstock as she mentions how we need to build a movement on love and charity.

    I think we have seen what has been happening throughout Canada but more so in the United States especially in recent weeks of the seemingly unending riots paired with an uptick of cases of Covid-19. From what I can see, these are angry people who want to fight for causes such as Black Lives Matter which I believe are right (as they speak to the dignity of the human person), but executed out of fury, violence and anger rather than charity and dialogue. Nothing is going to change if this type of attitude keeps persisting. It is only where sincere charity and dialogue take place with plans for concrete actions will take place. Once that happens, then will be able to move towards a more just society and reconciliation will really happen.

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  3. This interview with Cindy Blackstock was a captivating piece that sought to expose the systematically disadvantageous position of Indigenous people and in particular Indigenous children in Canada. As someone who has read ample literature by and of Indigenous peoples’ circumstances and history in Canada, I found all of Cindy’s remarks to be riddled with a high degree of truth and accuracy. Her passion is driven by her own lived experiences of being an Indigenous person and she is able to precisely articulate how the system is failing the Indigenous community and why it is failing. I found her comments about the mismatch between the prevailing image of Canadian identity as nice, friendly and multicultural to be at odds with the systematically racist institutions that are constantly reinforced and reproduced to level an uneven playing field for different minority groups leading to the normalization of words such as “overrepresentation”. She was incredibly insightful when pointing out the normalization of such a term so much so that overrepresentation of Indigenous people in welfare states and prison has become a token image for them but it is one that they have been forced into because of the circumstances they must endure as a result of historical trauma and inequitable social conditions. All in all, I believe Cindy sheds light on the gory history and present conditions of the Indigenous peoples in Canada and I strongly believe it is something we all need to hear.

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  4. Something that struck me in this interview is how important Canadian self-identity is in the fight for justice for indigenous people.

    If I understood Cindy Blackstock correctly, she believes that the most important step right now is simply that the Canadian government actually follows through with the guidelines already agreed upon. Ultimately this depends on Canadian citizens demanding this from their government. Cindy Blackstock argues that the Canadian sense that Canada is a nice, friendly, multicultural place actually hinders its ability to address the longstanding injustices that exist here.

    All this reminds me so clearly of the teachings of Jesus to ‘take the plank of wood out of your own eye before you take the speck of dust out of your brother’s’. Jesus calls us to focus on fixing what is wrong with ourselves, not constantly congratulating ourselves on what we get right. Perhaps Canada needs to take the plank of wood out of its own eye before criticising the problems it sees in other countries.

    This is related to another part of Jesus’ life. The group of people he was in conflict with most were public leaders who looked ‘holy’ on the outside, but inside were full of pride and self-righteousness. He called them hypocrites. This is a danger in the Canadian self-identity of inclusion and multiculturalism; it is so easily to be hypocritical.

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